Ladies, if you're like us at Konscious Keto and have ever dreamed of living a lifestyle that encourages enjoying delicious and fatty foods—like omega-3-rich salmon, avocado, and quality bacon to help you lose fat—you're going to want to keep reading.
We have some exciting information to share about how to make that wish a reality.
The keto diet is an incredible way to get more energy, ditch those stubborn pounds, and finally feel your best without deprivation. Furthermore, delicious and nutritious ketone supplements, like Keto Activate, can help achieve ketosis even if your diet isn’t entirely dialed-in and perfect every day.
If you have been feeling sluggish, achy, or suffer from a thyroid disorder like amenorrhea—the absence of a menstrual period—or polycystic ovary syndrome, which results in enlarged ovaries due to the growth of small cysts, you may unwittingly be suffering from hormonal imbalances and those imbalances may be making it harder for you to lose weight or get pregnant.
We're going to connect the dots and outline what you need to know to improve your hormonal, and subsequently your overall, health as a woman by following a ketogenic diet.
Does a Ketogenic Diet Work for Women?
A ketogenic diet is an excellent option for women but, just as our hormonal makeup differs from that of men, we need to accommodate specific and unique considerations to execute the diet safely.
There are many health benefits associated with a ketogenic diet. Achieving metabolic ketosis by depleting the body's glycogen (sugar) stores, and forcing the body to convert from burning sugar to burning fat for fuel, is ideal.
We'll cover more on the benefits of ketosis below.
Things to Consider Before Starting a Keto Diet
Most people eating a Standard American Diet generally eat around 300 total grams of carbs per day, but that will certainly not be the case on any iteration of the ketogenic diet.
Those who follow a strict keto diet opt to keep their net carb macros (r.e., total carbs - fiber = net carbs) under 20 net grams per day.
Some people experience challenges when they embark on keto, and those issues are generally summed up and referred to collectively as the ‘keto flu.’
Keeping electrolytes, salt and hydration levels high will help to mitigate symptoms of the flu and shorten the unpleasant experience that some experience.
If you experience keto flu or struggle to get into ketosis, see our post, How to Beat the Keto Flu & Enjoy all the Benefits of Being in Ketosis for a breakdown on the best way to get started on keto.
Our lives are so busy, and it’s hard to eat the ideal foods at all times, sometimes life happens.
Luckily, amazing and super-tasty products like Keto Activate help boost ketones and maintain or establish ketosis, even if your macros aren’t squeaky clean.
What Women Benefit from a Ketogenic Diet?
Women with a seizure disorder, type 2 diabetes, any form of the neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative disease, or those who are overweight or obese may benefit from a keto diet.
By the way, for those of you considering keto and hoping to conceive or considering the keto lifestyle immediately postpartum, you might want to check out our two recent posts on how to safely eat a ketogenic diet during and post-pregnancy.
Keep your Diet Alkaline on Keto
Although keto is unlike any other dietary lifestyle because its benefits extend far beyond weight loss and are therapeutic, even this fantastic lifestyle can be less nutritious based on our specific food choices.
Eating fatty, omega-3 rich, salmon and spinach sautéed in grass-fed butter or eating highly processed low-carb, high-fat foods with trans fats—especially those containing certain unhealthy vegetable oils (e.g. corn and canola, etc.)—are both technically keto, but the level of health and vitality either choice will produce in your body will be entirely different.
Eating a diet filled with alkaline-rich foods is essential to everyone's health, but it supports women's health in specific and vital ways related to regulating metabolism, fertility, and pH levels in the body, which promotes optimal function and performance.
You can find out what veggies to eat on a keto diet here, these are excellent sources of essential nutrients and will help your body become more alkaline.
We love to make keto smoothies because they’re packed with nutrition and are a great meal option to make and take with you when on-the-go. Try any of our five favorites and see which you love best.
Also, a little insider tip, add a scoop of Keto Activate to the mix for a boost of energy and ketone bodies to keep your body running optimally throughout the day.
What a Ketogenic Diet Can do to Your Hormones
Following a ketogenic diet is an incredibly powerful tool for regulating hormones, especially in women.
The keto diet's tremendous effect on the improvement of every physiological system, particularly our hormonal systems that impact the regulation and proper function of every system in the body, makes its value unparalleled.
Nutritional ketosis has many benefits, but women's hormones require doing keto a specific way to avoid some of the hormonal and metabolic damage that can occur in women when attempting to achieve ketosis for extended periods of time without an adequate consumption of calories, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3-and-6-balanced fatty acids.
Let's review women's hormones and their functions:
A hormone responsible for the regulation of many physiological systems, estrogen protects cardiovascular health as well as metabolism.
Also, this hormone contributes to bone metabolism, so it's especially crucial for women to maintain adequate levels during menopause, when estrogen levels drop, to avoid an increased risk of osteoporosis.
Furthermore, estrogen plays a vital role in regulating sleep, mood and mental function because it affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.
A hormone responsible for sexual function and drive, progesterone is produced in the ovaries following ovulation each month and is crucial to help maintain a healthy uterine lining during pregnancy.
Responsible for more than 200 functions in women and an androgen, or sex hormone, testosterone is directly linked to women's sexual arousal.
Produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands, this hormone is also essential to bone strength, the general development of lean muscle mass, and proper brain function.
Insulin regulation is always paramount as irregularities can lead to damaging conditions like insulin resistance, diabetes, lethargy, weight gain, and mood disorders, to devastating effect for some—subsequently throwing ones' hormonal ecosystem entirely out of whack, but this is even truer in women because of our inherent hormonal fluctuations throughout the month.
Your Period on Keto
A ketogenic diet undoubtedly provides many health benefits, but you may wonder if things will change on keto around 'that time of the month.'
Some women experience no menstrual issues when beginning keto, while others may notice more significant menstrual irregularities in the form of a disorder called amenorrhea—missing one's period for three consecutive months or more.
Conversely, a significant amount of women have reported opposing results after starting the keto diet—with their regular monthly cycle resuming on keto after suffering from amenorrhea—a sign that there must be a variable approach to keto that supports menstrual health.
Women starting keto, especially if doing so with a pre-existing metabolic or hormonal condition, will want to make sure to structure their meal plan in a specific way; it's wise to consult a nutritionist familiar with the keto dietary protocol to design an ideal program for you, along with your primary care doctor.
A ketogenic lifestyle is one of abundance and doesn’t have to be hard. Keto Activate is an effortless way to beat sugar cravings and get more energy while dining on a decadent, rich, chocolate lava cake featured on the blog.
There’s no need to sacrifice flavor and yummy treats on keto; just a few mindful swaps will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you on track!
An additional note on amenorrhea, the disorder is triggered by a drastic, rapid drop in weight which can lead to sharp declines in hormones like estrogen, testosterone and the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which can result in irregular periods or cessation in menstruation for an extended period.
In addition to irregular periods, some women note heavier or lighter periods or even experiencing shorter gaps between cycles for a short period when starting keto.
Luckily, most find these menstrual irregularities usually subside during the early stages of their keto journey.
Debunking Thyroid Studies on Keto
All hormonal systems are vital as they work together in a collaborative and symbiotic fashion, with each system controlling different functions in the body, and all systems reliant upon the efficient operation of their counterparts to function correctly themselves.
Detractors of the low-carb, high fat, ketogenic diet often point to preliminary research that asserts that consuming a diet high in saturated fats has adverse effects on a woman's thyroid health.
However, not all saturated fats are equal in nutritional value or hormonal impact, with certain vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like corn, safflower, canola, or soybean oil, even causing metabolic damage with continued use.
Herein lies the problem with existing studies on how a ketogenic diet may impact women's thyroid health: we don't know which types of fats the subjects consumed, and as we've already noted, choosing quality fats matters.
If studies tested health markers while those on keto were consuming large amounts of less healthy PUFAs, as opposed to preferrable saturated fats like that found in coconut-based MCT oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or grass-fed meats, it might explain the thyroid breakdowns observed in some women studied.
We would all be well served to have more review and research conducted around how different saturated fats impact hormone regulation, as this aspect cannot be painted with a broad brush due to its nuance.
HPA Axis and Stress Hormones
When you hear the term HPA-axis (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal), you may think we're geeking out a bit, but it's just what we generally refer to as the fight-or-flight response.
You may already know that the adrenal gland plays a significant role in how our hormones operate, as well as how energy is distributed, based on whether our metabolic hormones inform our body and brain that we are in either a state of nutritional surplus or starvation.
However, if we're operating in a state of chronic stress and overtaxing the body regularly, the body releases increased amounts of stress hormones, like cortisol, which can result in a destructive hormonal imbalance in women, as well as unwanted weight gain—particularly around the abdomen.
In addition to chronic fatigue, an HPA-axis imbalance may also result in food sensitivities, digestive disturbances, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disease, hormonal imbalance, and disproportionate difficulty with losing weight.
Fortunately for ladies, the ketogenic diet can help regulate these imbalances when followed with a few crucial considerations.
How Women Can Start a Keto Diet
OK, now onto a little foodie fun as we detail all the tasty foods, you get to enjoy on keto while reaping the health benefits of ketosis and also enjoying accelerated body fat loss.
You read right, this is not a trick, and we're not kidding: the efficacy of the keto diet for everything from facilitating an accelerated fat loss to helping to prevent or mitigate the effects of certain cancers is well-founded, and backed by almost a century worth of research.
Start the ketogenic diet slowly, first by reducing carb intake and increasing healthy fats, gradually until you achieve your desired ketogenic protocol.
Women Need More Fat at First
Oh, yes, we're going to talk about getting to dine on delicious and decadent healthy fats without regret, again! It's essential to consume a lot of quality fats when starting the keto diet to achieve satiety.
Also, eating an abundance of fat helps to generate some initial internal "social proof," if you will.
Use your results to see whether the diet works—despite it being a therapeutic solution that flies in the face of everything we've been taught for decades per the USDA's low-fat, high-carb, high-sugar agenda.
Listen: putting butter in coffee sounded weird to us at first too, but the taste and results of the program are a good draw for the lifestyle.
So, if you're open to the possibility of something new, and you're a foodie at heart, you're going to want to grab a chocolate and peanut butter fat bomb and pull up a chair as we expound:
Eat until you're satisfied, especially extra healthy fats, without calorie counting, for the first few weeks.
Eating intuitively and having ample amounts of fat and protein in your diet will enable the brain and body to recalibrate itself, returning your natural appetite to your real level of hunger, no more binging!
Don’t Try To Restrict Calories
Starting keto presents an opportunity to recalibrate and relearn your true appetite. And eventually, once fat-adapted, you'll eat intuitively, and counting calories will become a thing of the past.
Enjoy as much healthy fat, and fiber as you need to, to feel satiated. Add quality proteins in moderation to add to the decadence.
Revel in the abandon with which you can now eat delicious foods like grass-fed beef, heavy cream, and foods rich in saturated fats like avocado that have wrongly been demonized by the powers that be, for decades.
Avoid Nutrient-Poor Fat Bombs
Again, all fats are not created equal, and lower-quality fats (e.g., corn oil, safflower oil, all trans fats, etc.) and quality fats (e.g., cold-pressed MCT oil, organic almond butter, etc.), even if consumed in equal amounts, have vastly different effects within the body once consumed.
Stick to organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, non-GMO whole foods, even when making decadent fat bombs, to ensure you're not eating fats that will adversely affect hormone health.
Beware of Low-Protein
Protein is necessary for brain and body development and function. We need at least 30% of our calories from protein to perform many physiological functions, and this macronutrient also facilitates our ability to recover efficiently after exerting intense amounts of energy.
Everyone's protein needs will vary, so consult a nutritionist or access any number of online calculators or food tracking apps available, like MyFitnessPal or Carbmanager, to determine your daily protein macros.
Tips on Doing a Ketogenic Diet for Women
The takeaway for women looking to start a ketogenic diet is simple: focus on eating nutrient-dense, low-glycemic foods and concentrate on eating healthy fats and quality proteins to ensure satiety and sustained hormone health.
Eat More Alkaline Foods
We are free to eat bacon and butter to our heart's content on keto, but those two tasty staples of the keto diet aren't everything.
A well-structured keto diet will focus on getting adequate amounts of micronutrients (e.g., vitamins A and D, calcium, iron, etc.), as well as eating alkalizing foods that reduce inflammation and acidity in the body (e.g., kale, salmon, spirulina, etc.).
You can explore this way of eating in our article Micronutrients: How to Avoid Vitamin and Minerals Deficiencies on a Keto Diet. This is a missing topic for many people coming into keto or who stall a few months in.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is an excellent option for women who find a tighter eating window challenging to follow.
Consider eating your last meal of the day around 7 p.m. and not eating again until 9 a.m. the following day, giving you a longer, eight-hour feeding window, as opposed to attempting to restrict your feeding range each day to say a four-hour feeding window and fasting for 20-hours a day.
Many think of fat and protein as the most critical macronutrients on a ketogenic diet, but fiber is just as essential as it helps to keep elimination regular and prevents constipation.
Fiber also helps to mitigate the glucose impact of carbs consumed (r.e., total carbs - fiber = net carbs) and enables you to feel fuller longer.
Stress triggers excessive amounts of, well, stress hormones, like cortisol, and wreaks havoc in the body, causing imbalances within the body's hormonal ecosystem.
Meditation and mindfulness practices will help manage stress levels and mitigate the body signaling the release of fat-storing hormones, like insulin, that will make it virtually impossible to release body fat.
Get More Sleep
Our bodies' cells turn over and repair themselves while we sleep; and getting adequate amounts of deep, restorative, sleep is crucial as it helps to cleanse impurities from the body and helps to revitalize all systems to maintain proper function. Don't skimp on your rest, your brain and body will thank you.
FAQs About the Ketogenic Diet for Women
How Long Does It Take To Get Into Ketosis?
It usually takes anywhere between 2-4 days to get into a ketotic state, depending on your level of daily activity and your metabolism.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Protein largely depends on an individuals’ health goal, lean body mass, and personal preferences.
The general guideline for determining protein intake is that you should aim for 0.68 to 1 g of protein per pound of lean body mass (LBM). FYI, your lean body mass is defined as your body weight less the body fat you’re carrying.
If you weigh 170 pounds and are at 40% body fat, your LBM is 102 pounds (170 – 40%).
How Much Fat Should I Eat?
Your relationship with fat on keto is the inverse of any experience you've likely ever had while eating a Standard American Diet (SAD).
Enjoy an abundance of healthy fats and omega-3-and-6 balanced foods to replace the carbs you’ll no longer be eating to ensure satiety.
Also, although you can eat more substantial amounts of fat on keto than SAD, you don’t need to eat copious amounts of fat every day if your goal is fat loss.
A fat-fueled diet will keep you satisfied, and a moderate intake of dietary fat encourages the system to burn its own stored fat for fuel!
Let’s say you need to eat 1800 calories to lose weight, and you’re consuming 20g net carbs and 112g protein.
Each gram of carbs and protein has 4 calories, while each gram of fat contains 9. This means that you’ll be consuming (20+112) x 4 = 132 x 4 = 528 calories from carbs and protein, and 1,272 calories from fat, or 141g fat.
I’m Vegan / Vegetarian. Can I Still do Keto?
You can structure a well-rounded vegetarian or vegan keto diet with some planning.
There are so many fantastic animal-free products on the market to substitute for meat, dairy, and eggs in keto-friendy recipes. Plan by sourcing products you'll need as staples, so you're prepared for success.
We recently wrote a detailed post packed with best practices to help anyone interested to live a well-balanced version of a vegetarian or vegan keto diet, see Thriving on a Vegetarian Ketogenic Diet for more.
Can I Do the Keto Diet When Pregnant?
Both mom and her unborn baby enter nutritional ketosis throughout pregnancy, with instances of this increasing as both near the birthing experience.
It's best to start the ketogenic diet before conceiving so that you're already fat-adapted when you become pregnant.
But one can still transition to keto while pregnant, and it's recommended that women do so slowly—gradually reducing carb intake, but not lowering macros beyond 100 grams a day, to ensure sufficient nutrition for mom and baby.
We recently wrote an in-depth post packed with best practices to help anyone interested in following a keto diet while pregnant, see Can I Do the Keto Diet When Pregnant? for more on how to live a healthy keto lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy.
Can I Do the Keto Diet After Giving Birth?
Absolutely! Both mom and baby are naturally in a state of nutritional ketosis leading up to and immediately following childbirth.
Also, the nutritional composition of mom's breastmilk will maintain ketosis in her baby for an extended period if exclusively breastfeeding.
If interested, you can check our article, Breastfeeding on a Keto Diet, for all the tips every new mom wanting to live the ketogenic lifestyle needs to know.
What is the Best Ketogenic Diet for Women?
Go for a more moderate version of the ketogenic diet in the long-term, but strict keto is acceptable for healthy women with no underlying medical issues to help jumpstart fat loss.
In general, keep your total carb macros between 50-100 grams a day, based on your goals and metabolism—you'll find your ideal carb macro target over time with a little trial and error.
How Long Should I Fast?
We don't recommend fasting at all if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or underweight. However, a healthy woman can fast regularly, and most women find fasting with larger feeding windows each day is more comfortable and sustainable, long-term.
Consider feeding for eight hours and fasting for 16 hours—throughout the week as detailed above, and you'll soon be experiencing the accelerated fat loss, metabolic regulation, and hormone support synonymous with physiological ketosis with a bit more wiggle room.
Speaking of wiggle room, we love to use Keto Activate when fasting because its added ketones help boost regenerative and metabolic benefits when fasting.
Try some chocolate Keto Activate to make a keto-friendly hot chocolate, or experiment with it however you please.
The benefits of using exogenous ketones when fasting are amazing and the taste of Keto Activate kind of makes you feel like you’re cheating when you’re not.
Does Ketosis Cause Hot Flashes?
Hormonal imbalances in estrogen, testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which often occur around middle age, contribute to hot flashes, sleep disruption, and other issues in menopause.
However, the ketogenic diet helps regulate all the body's hormones and contributes to healthy hormone function.
Also, the ketogenic diet offsets the insulin resistance that many women in menopause experience as a result of a reduction in estrogen—win-win!
The many benefits of the ketogenic diet are well documented, especially for women. Promising, emerging research is even inspiring physicians to consider ways to use a stringent version of the dietary protocol to prevent or mitigate the devastating or fatal effects of certain cancers.
However, dropping carbohydrates too low, and shooting to achieve deeper states of ketosis with net carbs under 20 grams a day, can trigger hormonal imbalances in all women and are, again, especially not advised for women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding.
It is essential to consume enough calories and consider eating a modified ketogenic diet that allows for higher amounts of carbs, up to around 100 grams per day. Here’s another instance when the use of exogenous ketones, like Keto Activate, can prove particularly helpful.
Consuming a quality ketone body supplement, like Keto Activate, helps to suppress hunger and cravings, and boosts energy, while enabling us to achieve and maintain ketosis—all an added benefit to those looking to manage weight or release body fat on keto.
Once you become reacquainted with your natural hunger signals, you'll be free from a regimented dietary program and can eat intuitively in a fat-adapted state, banishing the need for calorie counting for good!